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“Strip the Trim” at Every Roof Cut

The focus of this Instructor Newsletter is to reinforce the need for vehicle rescue team members to understand why roof removal tasks require the crew to “strip the trim”. This simple action can make a big difference in safety at the crash scene.

Our scenario today involves the Cadillac Escalade vehicle shown above. Let us assume that it has been in a serious collision and multiple occupants are trapped. The rescue officer has decided that the team should accomplish total roof removal. Because this is a pickup-type vehicle, when ready for the roof to be cut off, there may be a tendency for the crew to just simply start cutting pillars. Who would ever think there’d be roof airbags and stored gas inflators on a pickup truck!

Cadillac Escalade vehicle with roof airbags as part of side impact occupant protection

Cadillac Escalade vehicle with roof airbags as part of side impact occupant protection

With the interior roof pillars (and even portions of the headliner) removed, it becomes clear that this Denali truck does in fact have roof-mounted airbags. Many brands of pickup trucks have this occupant safety feature now. The teaching point that vehicle rescue instructors must reinforce is that rescue teams should adopt the discipline that “stripping the trim” is a mandatory task before cutting any roof pillar on any make, model, or style of vehicle. Once the trim is removed, rescuers are able to work around the stored gas inflators as they cut through the pillar.

Stored gas inflator for roof airbag system on Cadillac Escalade

Stored gas inflator for roof airbag system on Cadillac Escalade

As a vehicle rescue officer and especially one who trains others, after talking about stripping the trim, you have a second teaching point to address. The question will come up, “I stripped the trim and can see the inflator, but now where do I cut?” As you can see in this last image, this driver’s side C-pillar could possibly be cut through below the stored gas inflator. Explain that the pillar cut on this Denali could also be made by cutting through the pillar near the roofline which would also cut through the discharge tubing of the stored gas inflator. Stored pressure is only in the cylinder-shaped inflator, not the tubing.

4,000 psi stored gas inflator for roof airbag on driver's side of Cadillac Escalade

4,000 psi stored gas inflator for roof airbag on driver’s side of Cadillac Escalade

About Ron Moore

Ron Moore
Ron Moore retired as a Division Chief with the McKinney (TX) Fire Department. He is now employed part-time with the Prosper, TX Fire Rescue and the Plano Fire Rescue. Ron is the author of now over 200 published articles in his renowned University of Extrication series, featured each month in Firehouse Magazine and is the moderator of the University of Extrication interactive section of the Firehouse.com website.